NEW PRISON TERMS DRAFTED

 
New prison terms drafted
 
By Mike Cason 
Montgomery Advertiser 
 

The Alabama Sentencing Commission approved a draft report Friday to present to the state Legislature as part of the solution to the state's prison and jail crowding problem. 
 
The commission will recommend a bill that would require judges to consider voluntary guidelines in handing out sentences. 
 
The guidelines would be intended to make sentencing more consistent and  reflective of an offender's criminal history and the level of risk he poses to the public. 
 
For the first time, criminal offenses would be classified as violent or nonviolent. Violent offenders would not be eligible for parole but would serve minimum sentences that would be extended by 20 percent for failure to cooperate with prison programs. They also would be under an automatic one-year period of supervision at the end of their sentence. 
 
The commission will meet again Feb. 24 to consider other proposals, including amendments to the state law governing community corrections programs. 
 
The commission, created by the Legislature three years ago, must issue its report to lawmakers during the session that begins March 4. 
 
"I think we're going to be ready," said Chief Assistant Attorney General Rosa Davis, a commission member. "I'm very pleased with the progress made on how sentencing reform needs to go." 
 
Gov. Bob Riley and Attorney General Bill Pryor both support sentencing changes as part of the solution to the state's prison problem. Alabama's prison population is at an all-time high of more than 27,000, and the state is under court orders to receive inmates more quickly from county jails. 
 
A federal judge has found the state's women's prison to be so unsafe that it violates the U.S. Constitution. 
 
The Sentencing Commission voted to recommend that the Legislature amend some state laws on property crimes. It voted to raise the monetary amounts that determine the seriousness of a crime, amounts that haven't changed since the mid-1970s. 
 
For example, criminal mischief causing property damage of $1,000 or more is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The commission recommended raising that amount to $2,500 or more. 
 
At a previous meeting, the commission had voted to raise monetary values that determine the seriousness of thefts. For example, theft of property worth more than $1,000 is a Class B felony, which brings a prison sentence of two to 20 years. The commission recommended raising that amount to $2,500.


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